Motion blur is a great way to emphasize movement in what is normally a static photograph.  In today’s article, we go through the process of creating a photograph that captures the hustle and bustle of a crowded downtown street corner while keeping our subjects static.

Remember to always stay safe when shooting photographs on streets – cars, pedestrians, bicyclists are constantly moving around you.  Have a friend or assistant watch over the shoot and be ready to jump in and warn you about a vehicle heading your way.

DSC3391 500x333 Capturing Creative Motion Blur

Let’s look at the steps in capturing a blurry/static street corner shot like this.

1. Shoot at sunset or dusk or in dim light
There’s two main reasons for this: firstly, street lights and building lights will really show prominently in a long exposure photo and will add some great highlight and interests to the shot.  Secondly, motion blur requires a long shutter speed which is facilitated by low lighting. A bright sunny day means you will need to use a fast shutter speed which makes capturing motion blur impossible or at least very difficult.

2. Find a street corner with lots of pedestrians going by
In Toronto, Yonge and Dundas streets is ideal because of the dual-crosswalks. If you do not have access to busy streets, you may have to improvise and shoot inside a busy shopping mall.

3. Scout out your positioning and do a few dry runs
Stand at your shooting positions and wait for pedestrians to go by to see what paths people take and to find an optimal view point. Try different positions – stand up, kneel down, go high, go low.  Wait for more people, wait for less people and so forth.
To get a lot of blur, position yourself so that pedestrians are walking perpendicular to your camera – this way, you will capture the most motion.

4. Take a few practice shots
You will need to use a low shutter speed to capture the right amount of blur.  This photo used a 1/20s shutter speed and F4 aperture.
I took multiple practice photos at different settings to get what i thought I liked the best.

5. Ask the subjects to hold their pose – and shoot!
If the subjects can hold still for a few seconds, that will give you enough time to take a long exposure photo and blur out the moving pedestrians.

Remember to not get in people’s way and watch out for vehicles!